The chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee is facing accusations of anti-Semitism for a fundraising letter that claims Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and George Soros “bought” control of Congress for Democrats.
News of the letter signed by Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) comes months after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made a similar claim in a now-deleted tweet.
According to an American Jewish World report last week, the letter appears to have been sent in March. It states that “the news of impactful, real progress on turning our nation around was undercut by biased media and hundreds of millions of dollars of anti-Republican propaganda put out by liberal special interests, funded by deep-pocketed far-left billionaires George Soros, Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg.”
“These left-wing radicals essentially BOUGHT control of Congress for the Democrats,” the letter reads.
Soros and former New York mayor Bloomberg are Jewish, and Steyer’s late father was Jewish. Steyer is a Democratic candidate for president.
Halie Soifer, executive director of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, called on Emmer to retract and apologize for the letter.
“This week, we have witnessed the devastating consequences of propagating hate targeting any minority group,” Soifer said, in a reference to the mass shooting in El Paso over the weekend. “Unlike the Republican Jewish Coalition, we have been willing to call out anti-Semitism wherever it may occur, including on our side of the aisle. We call on the Republican Jewish Coalition and Republican leadership to do the same thing.”
The NRCC, congressional Republicans and President Trump have been quick to criticize Democrats such as Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) over remarks that have invoked anti-Semitic stereotypes.
In response to the firestorm created by Omar’s remarks, the House in March passed a resolution broadly condemning hate. And in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in April, Trump said: “Republicans believe that we must never ignore the vile poison of anti-Semitism. We do. All of us.”
Chris Pack, spokesman for the NRCC, defended Emmer’s fundraising letter but did not immediately respond to a request for details on when it was sent.
“There is nothing anti-Semitic about drawing attention to three billionaire donors (one who does not even identify with the Jewish faith) and who they are giving money to,” Pack said. “When it does come to actual anti-Semitism, the NRCC will continue holding House Democrats accountable for turning a blind eye to the anti-Semites within their ranks.”
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, argued that the premise of the accusations over the letter was false.
“Firstly, Tom Steyer isn’t even Jewish, he’s a practicing Episcopalian,” Brooks said. “Secondly, people can’t simply be shielded from criticism because they’re Jewish, not when otherwise similar people are criticized for the same exact actions. If it’s fair to criticize the Kochs, like leading Democrat presidential candidates have done, then its fair to criticize the top Democratic funders.”
Rabbi Steven Burg, chief executive of the international nonprofit Aish HaTorah, also defended the letter, saying, “I don’t think the Jewish people have a greater friend in the world than Tom.”
Whereas Omar previously took aim at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Emmer’s letter simply mentioned major donors and did not say anything about religion, he said. “I didn’t find it anti-Semitic,” said Burg, who previously hosted Emmer on a trip to Israel and is also a member of the Democratic Committee of Bergen County, N.J. “It didn’t involve mentioning people’s religion specifically, and it didn’t mention a Jewish organization.”
If the letter was sent in March, as American Jewish World reported, that would mean it was sent out after McCarthy’s October tweet bearing a similar message. In the tweet, McCarthy had shared a video that criticized the trio for trying to “buy” the midterm elections through their support of Democrats.
“We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican November 6th. #MAGA,” McCarthy said in the tweet, which was sent Oct. 23 and deleted the next day.
McCarthy’s tweet came during a week when prominent Democrats across the country — including Steyer and Soros — were being targeted by pipe bombs. It also came days before a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest attack targeting Jews in U.S. history.
Months later, McCarthy defended the tweet, arguing that it had “nothing to do” with religion. Asked why McCarthy deleted the tweet, Matt Sparks, a spokesman for McCarthy, pointed to a statement he issued in October.
“Understanding the particular sensitivity of the past 24 hours in the political climate today that has led to specific threats on both sides of the aisle, we will redouble our focus on our agenda of results,” Sparks said at the time.